Q: What, exactly, are saddlebags?
In a post about the booty, I mentioned that a lot of women are holding onto a “big booty,” saying they don’t want to work out for fear of losing it, only to ignore the other issues that can come paired with it – like a large tummy or saddlebags.
But, as I was asked, what are saddlebags?
It can get confusing, but saddlebags are a very specific issue, and you know it when you see it.
Saddlebags appear on the thighs. They are not curves, in the sense of the coke-bottle shape. If hips – and you know what I mean by hips – are curves, then saddlebags are more like sharp angles.
The photo to the direct left shows “saddlebags.” These adorable little fat deposits get their name from the fact that people who have them apparently resemble horses with – yep, you guessed it – saddlebags on the back of a horse. The thick pink line shows the natural shape of this person’s body, while the black circles show what can be classified as saddlebags.
There is such a thing as simply having hips, but at the point where they protrude out like this, it’s saddlebags. Some also refer to it as “square booty.” Lots of women have fat on their outer thighs, but that’s just “outer thigh fat” and if you actually like the look it provides you, that’s okay. “Saddlebags” are a very specific kind of look, and if you want to change it, I have some advice.
It can come from a few things, the most important of which being when, as pictured, your booty rests on your thighs – notice the crease between the booty and the thigh – thereby pushing the fat that would rest in that space where your booty is outward toward your hips. It can alter the pattern of fat deposits on your body, thereby spreading it even higher up.
I had major saddlebags at my first start. I didn’t think anything of it – just thought it meant I had hips – but it wasn’t the same thing. I didn’t look the way I thought I’d looked. Now, with the tips I’m about to share, my thighs are much more shapely. Sure, there’s fat there, but I don’t mind it as long as I look the way I want it to look.
Now, I’ve seen explanations of saddlebags that said everything from “muscular displacement” to disorder, but my experiences were very different. Mine were, simply, fat.
I still have faint remnants of my old saddlebags, but three things are making a huge difference in their removal.
The first, is cardio. The reality of saddlebags is that, for most people, they’re fat accumulated along the sides of the body. Cardio, a beneficial component of fat loss, will help rid the body of them. The lower body won’t be the first place targeted for fat burn – depending upon how much fat you have to lose, it may start in the upper body first and work its way down – but once the body starts to burn in a more proportionate fashion, you can expect to see pretty awesome results after some dedication.
The second…is changing the way you eat. Something in your daily intake is contributing to that fat sticking to your thighs, so you have to be committed to changing how you eat in order to change that for good. Be willing to play around with that and find out what works best. (Here’s a tip – for me, I had to skip some of the refined carbs.)
The third and final tip? If saddlebags come from having a booty that rests a bit too comfortably on the thighs, then weight lifting will help to lift that booty up, up and awaaaaaaaay, thereby allowing the displaced fat to go back where it wanted. Squats, lunges, good mornings, dead lifts… all are exercises born to lift the booty and make you a happy camper. That’s also the fastest way to develop a “fit booty,” since a muscular booty – not one that is predominately fat – has less of a chance of “deflating,” going back to resting heavily on the thighs and pushing that fat outward again. Test it out yourself – look in a mirror, turn to the side. “Pick up” your booty cheek, now turn forward. Does the shape of the thigh change? Then go get your squat on!
Saddlebags are common in women who, as they age, the shape of their bodies change due to lack of activity. In other words, a thin woman with a “round booty” can wind up with saddlebags as she ages (the woman in the photo is actually rather petite) because of a lack of muscle and activity as well as a poor diet. They also appear in women who are simply accumulating a sizeable amount of fat. It happens.
If you’re not comfortable with it, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Try these tips and see how they help you!
Very informative.I was often wondering what they were and how I can prevent it from happening to me!
THANK YOU for sharing this! I felt alone. I honestly thought these were enlarged hips. I am so embarassed to say that. Noone could give me an anwer they just said I was “spreading”. So I thought I was stuck with them since I will be 30 this year..
OMG, I’m filled with so many emotions right now. I too have saddle bags that I thought was hips! I’m built like a runner so I don’t have much hips to begin with so I heavily relied on my “saddlebags”. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. lol… Thank you for making us aware of this. Now it’s time for me to do something about it!
Weird, I always thought saddlebags were the extra flab around the mid-section around the belly.. Guess I will just have to rename them my love handles or muffin-top. Be careful when you lose your saddlebags, though. I got rid of my outer thighs (stubborn stubborn inner thighs) through cardio, but I traded them in for stretch marks x_x.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to get rid of mine as well. What makes it worse is that on top of the saddlebags I have another dreaded misshapen body parts that people are calling high hips. If I was slimmer and didn’t have saddlebags the lower part of my torso would look sort of squarish. Unfortunately, working out doesn’t seem to be helping much. I’ve been reading a lot about waist training to help curve the waist more and flatten the belly to get rid of my little pooch that doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere.
I have been working out now for 3 months (classes like Zumba, Total Body Workout and Piyo. I haven’t lost any pounds in numbers but from doing cardio I have lost my saddlebags and whatever you call the fat that hangs out the bottom of your underwear that isn’t shaped. I will take our advice and continue to shape this area through weight training.
I have been working out now for 3 months (classes like Zumba, Total Body Workout and Piyo). I haven’t lost any pounds in numbers but from doing cardio I have lost my saddlebags and whatever you call the fat that hangs out the bottom of your underwear that isn’t shaped. I will take your advice and continue to shape this area through weight training.
What would you recommend for those of us with bad knees? Its hereditary. We lose cartilage early in the knees. This means i can’t do lunges or squats properly. And while I have a lot of weight to lose, I want to incorporate the muscle building activities early in my process. I can’t afford a gym membership right now either. Help!
Honestly, I’d probably suggest calisthenics. Yoga, pilates, something of that nature. Something that will softly and slowly help you build the muscles around where you’re losing cartilage, without the additional impact.
Hi, I think the best thing for those looking to lose weight and shape up with less impact on joints is swimming! it will work wonders.
I think swimming is a fantastic option but, oftentimes, the fact that pools are rare presents a challenge. Inner city environments often don’t have pools, most people don’t own their own, and most times gyms with pools are hosting classes – which is great! – which would make it difficult to have a free-swim period.
Hip thrusts and glute bridges!!! Look it up!! And don’t be afraid of heavy weights, that is the only thing that will change your shape!
Thanks for this post! I’m in the middle of losing 100 pounds, and as I’ve lost weight, I think I’ve actually ACQUIRED saddlebags that I didn’t have before! I mean, I think I was just all-around round, and now that excess fat is leaving (you’re right; it’s totally from the top down!), the saddlebags have become really pronounced and obvious. Ugh. Thanks for your clear words on this topic.
Yep! It’s just the way you’re losing fat is pushing fat into places its never been. The good thing is, as you continue to lose, the rest of THAT fat should start moving out, too!
Loathe my saddlebags. Lots of running and weight training works wonders.
I am a pretty slender girl but I still have saddlebags that look odd on my skinny legs, tried everything
Slender and skinny don’t exclude you from the possibility of having a high body fat percentage, which is what contributes to saddlebags, and is why cardio and muscle development helps alleviate them.
I disagree. I’ve always had saddlebags. Most of my life I was underweight and extremely muscular. My body fat was measured (using hand tools) and at the age of 30, I had only 16% body fat. You know what else I had? Yup, saddlebags. Cardio and muscle development never did a thing for mine.
I’d have to question whether you used calipers or electric measures of body fat testing, and if calipers, whether or not you used them on yourself. Accuracy of calipers decreases considerably depending on who’s taking the numbers.
Not only that, but it’s also safe to say that the way you structure your training and development is going to contribute to where the fat goes, and where it stays, for that matter.
It’s also safe to say that “genes” probably had something to do with it. There’s also the fact that the definition of “saddlebags” is defferent depending on the person. Either way, the vast majority of people are going to be able to make significant changes through using lower-body centered strength training and cardio to lose saddlebags, and it’s hard to say anything about you and yours specifically because as a trainer, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that everybody’s idea of “muscle development” has never been the same. Hope that you grew to love yours, since they clearly had no desire to let you go. 🙂
This has helped me feel a bit better about my saddlebags…That maybe I can get rid of them. I have read a lot of people with them have hormone imbalances from various conditions, which I happen to have (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Ever since my teen years when I was pretty small my thighs where always the biggest part of me (and noticeable so, I was an extreme pear). They also have been. And when I lose weight, it’s always from my waist which is the smallest part, and a bit from my chest and hips. But the legs seem to have little difference.
In fact, when I first started going to the gym I took my measurements and everything had gone down, expect my thighs which seemed to have gotten bigger (since I had been doing squats, leg press etc). I freaked out and started to basically do cardio and would only use upper body machines to work out.
But seeing this here makes me feel like maybe I will be out of proportion for awhile, but eventually my legs will get better. My biggest fear is that I will lose weight, but nothing from my legs and I will look monstrously disproportionate.
As a person who has lost around 90 pounds and since maybe regained 10 i want to tell you that diet and exercise and intermittent fasting work. I did look strange at one point since my saddlebags were LAST to go. But with enough diet and exercise they did eventually go and I looked amazing for a while. Since, i regained 10 pounds i did get the saddlebags back. I am confident however that if you or i continue to work out (weight lifting, cardio) and in my case fasting two days a week (and eating high protein low carb diet) your thighs will eventually look great. I regained some weight due to winter but i have been dieting and exercising and now again fasting (no processed food, eating organic). In two months i have not seen great results so i am introducing fasting again and green tea to speed up metabolism. I have noticed that I am very carb sensitive so i have quit sugar and am eating very small amount of carbs (sweet potatoes, parnsnip, lentils, celery root,etc).
With the utmost of respect, this is exactly why I don’t recommend fasting for weight loss. This, right here. This back and forthing, yo-yoing is just too much.
Can I make love until they disappear??
I support this. ROFL
I run all the time and I just started noticing that I have saddlebags right bellow my butt on the side. I hate them and I literally hate looking at myself. Can someone please tell me what to do? I really just want skinny thighs but I have cellulite and everything. I also have a very skinny upper half. It’s just my thighs and butt that I hate. I have a big butt.
Squats. Lift the skin around your behind, and it tugs at the skin on your hips and re-shapes it all. Your butt probably isn’t particularly muscular if you have saddlebags, so my guess is that you just need to commit to a good squat routine.
What is a good squat routine?
Depends on your specific goals and what resources you have available to you. If you have access to a gym, your workout shouldn’t look like someone who has to rely solely on calisthenics, you know?
Information was really helpful, and its good to know that its possible to get rid of the “saddlebags”.
Thank you for all the info! I have saddle bags and a pretty round, big booty, I want to lose my saddle bags without my butt shrinking! (I like my big butt, and so does my boyfriend lol) Are squats the answer to this problem?
Yep. Squats and light cardio, IMO.
This is the BEST description of what they are, how they got there, and a realistic “what you can do” to change it if you want. Thank you!!!!!
Do you think cardio and exercise is more effective and faster when your younger and start to notice “things changing shape.” so getting to it before it gets to bad?
“More effective” and “faster” are relative, I think.
Is it helpful to be more active in your youth so that the benefits are long-lasting? Absolutely. I think an active life can keep things from “changing shape.” I also think that being active and eating healthier, in your youth (pre-40s) plays an integral role in how you experience life AFTER your forties – muscle, skin, agility and flexibility, so on and so forth – but I don’t think there’s a realistic way to compare the two, if that’s what you meant. The variables aren’t entirely the same.
I have saddlebags and have had them since I was 14 years old or so. The few women who I know have them had them at a very early age. Some of us were thin! I think that anyone who does not have them in their twenties should not be afraid to get them. I know a lot of people who are overweight and do not have them. Of course the 3 tips are very important for a healthy lifestyle. I follow these tips as well as I can but I have to say that the cardio and eating well has not made my saddlebags disappear. That being said I will still do cardio on a daily basis eat well and try to tone and look for a miracle.
” I follow these tips as well as I can but I have to say that the cardio and eating well has not made my saddlebags disappear.”
If your body fat percentage is still pretty high, it likely won’t. Cardio and eating clean likely won’t guarantee any disappearances on that front if your body fat percentage is still above 20-25%.
Thanks so much for this article, Erika!!! I am 5’2 at 105 lbs and I HAVE saddlebags! YEP! It’s the last place the fat (after losing 95 lbs) is trying desparately to hold on to! :p I’m also older (almost 50) and find it has become harder in perimenopause to get rid of them. But, I have to really thank you for touching on the “cardio” because I’ve been labeled an Ectomorph body type (hard gainer) and since it is difficult for me to build muscle mass I’ve been told to limit the cardio. I’ve definitely noticed the saddlebags more prominent since I have done so. My diet is squeaky clean since I have numerous food allergies (SOY, WHEAT, RICE, CORN, OAT, PEANUTS) and I do not eat ANY processed food and keep my fats to healthy fats such as coconut oil, EVOO, avocado. So my question: How can an Ecotmorph body type with saddlebags incorporate more cardio and what types of cardio? I already strength train 2-3 times a week and do the suggested moves. Also, what about Barre workouts? This type of workout is one of my favorite workouts for my booty and I like to do this type of workout on my lower intensity days (i.e. alternate between high intensity and low intensity days). I would love to see a sort of “saddlebag” rotation! 😀
Saddlebags are on the outerthigh, not outer buttocks. Mine are under the buttocks on the outer thigh and I can’t get rid of them. I have tried everything. Even when I loose a significant amount if weight they are still there.
“Saddlebags are on the outerthigh, not outer buttocks.”
Of course they are – I said as much in the post. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re affected by the fat in the gluteal area, though.
“Even when I loose a significant amount if weight they are still there.”
Again, for the ninth time, if your body fat percentage isn’t low enough, no, you won’t see them fade.
I am so excited I came across your blog. It’s very inspiring. I’ve been feeling really bad about myself/body image lately. I have weird fat on the top of my hip bones then it dips in at my joint muscles then bulges back out at my thighs. I used to be stick thin. I’m unsure what to do exercise wise. I also have reflex sympathetic dystrophy in my right foot & left arm which makes it hard to do “normal” exercises… I love all of your advice on this post. Thank you.
Hi…very informative. Is there a correct posture that keeps the weight of the hips from falling on the thighs so as to prevent saddle bags?
Nope. Neither proper nor improper posturing can make a difference in this regard. Your best and only option is to lean out.
Love your positive and informative articles. Thank you!
mam thank you so much for such an informative article..it really help me lot..am sufferng with great negativity..because i have saddelebags .and being a girl i always found it horrible…i want to ask does it relate to sexual activities or masterbation
I mean, there could be something said for increasing hormone levels contributing to both arousal and fat [dis]placement… but in terms of masturbation causing saddlebags? It’s highly unlikely.
thanks mam for your valluable reply,,it means lot to me helping me to not thinking in that way…..i am suffering from depression from long time thanks a lot…now i am getting some peace….thank you sooo much
I think that I first noticed that I had saddlebags when I was 15 years old. I have always had an amazing amount of cellulite as well. If you looked at me fully clothed you would not guess it. I’m not overweight. I eat well and I am serious about my cardio. So, must to say it`s not that simple.
It’s actually as simple as your body fat percentage, and being “serious about your cardio” can sometimes make it worse. *shrug*
My body fat is around 20 percent but that would be according to my weight and height. It could be more if I had it done by someone. I used to be less as I weighed less. I am quite old so losing a lot of weight would make me look really bad at this point. I’m just frustrated as I have tried to lose it for so many years. I was thin and never wanted to be seen in a bathing suit. Good for those who can lose it! I think that your post was very interesting and I am following your advice. As you get older like me, it is more difficult to do some exercise as the knees are getting just as old!
Your body fat percentage isn’t so much about your height and weight as your BMI – it’s literally the percentage of mass on your body that is fat in comparison to the rest of the lean body mass on your frame.
And no, 20% isn’t low enough to see yourself getting completely rid of saddlebags.
You alter your body fat percentage in two ways: you lift to build muscle and increase the amount of lean body mass you have, and you burn fat in order to decrease the amount of body fat you have. These two change your body fat percentage and, ultimately, your shape.
What body shape is the lady in the picture coz I seem to have the same shape. Thanks
Looks to me like she’s very much pear-shaped.
Am battling for many years now to get rid of saddlebags. Have even become very despondent, but having read all the comments i now feel motivated to work harder at them. I know now “i can” do it, and with commitment “it’s possible” to lose it
This is a great article. I thought liposuction was the only answer but can’t afford it. Thank you for motivating me!
Doing excess cardio made my face dull and pale but not a noticeable change in saddle bag area. Regularly doing cardio , weight lifting but saddle bag area remains same . I have reduced 15 pounds and looks skinny but saddle bag area is sme . If I do excess cardio my face will look ugly . Guide me .
I have a suspicion that it wasn’t so much the cardio that was doing it as it might’ve been a combination of dehydration and too few calories.
Losing saddlebags is about losing body fat, and then using strength training to reshape parts of the body where there is less mass with lean muscle. Eating too few calories results in the loss of muscle, which means you’re not only NOT losing the saddlebags, you’re also losing the muscle that would help you re-shape.
Keep cardio to a minimum, up weights and find out how to actually activate your glutes, this will build muscle and in turn lift the “saddle bags”. I want to emphasize on how important it is to actually activate the glutes, so many people recommend squats, deadlifts and lunges. These are great exercises but do nothing for your glutes if you do not activate them correctly! Do your research and this will save you so much time and effort! Learn how to do this before throwing heavy weight around!
I have horrible saddlebags at the top of my thighs, the rest of me is quite slim which makes the lumps look more prominent than ever! Even if I lost the fat there, I suspect there would still be problems due to the size of the trocanter bones. I notice that no-one has mentioned how your basic bone structure affects the way fat is laid down. There is only so much you can do.
Not quite; the trochanter isn’t quite in the same spot as where one can typically find saddlebags, for one. For two, the size and position of the head of the femur impacts the way muscles lay and where they fall, not fat in such a fantastic degree that it’d produce the results reflected here.
Bone structure doesn’t play as much of a role because the muscular system separates fat from bone in major muscle group regions, like the legs. Build better and healthier muscle mass, many issues with where/how fat “lays down” fade away.
I use to love my tush. I literally got compliments all the time(which I learned wasn’t really a healthy thing to be excited about). However, that is the one thing I have always loved about myself. I changed my eating habits and am now vegetarian (two years now) and I have lost about 30’ish pounds. (It fluctuates 2-3 pounds). And that is one thing I lost. My awesome tushy. AND it appears as though I have some saddlebags. SO, I will take on this challenge of booty shaping and see where it takes me. Any suggestions on where to begin? I should also mention my legs have always been very muscular so, my thighs are large and I’m a petite girl. 5’3″ currently 134. Thanks for the info btw. I’ve done some research but, just recently become fed up with the size of these thighs.
Yep – start here: how to build a booty!
very helpful post Erika! I’ve been following you for a while, but had never seen this post. I found it while googling about my “problem area.” Yes, I’ve been doing all the side leg exercises in the world, but after seeing this post about 3 weeks ago, I started to add more glute and ham exercises into my workout rotation, and I can already see a difference. Yaaassss, thank you!
I’ve had these along with stretchmarks on my butt since puberty (I’m 21 now) despite being thin overall (5’7 and in the 120-135lb range). I don’t see myself ever having more conventional curvy hips, but I don’t want to feel self-conscious anymore. Any tips for feeling good about how I look right now?
This article makes me loathe my body.
This is part of the reason why I am so resistant to writing blog posts like this about specific body parts: I fear creating problems for people who never looked at parts of their bodies negatively. How do I help people understand how to change the parts they wish to change, all without making someone else look differently at a body part they once loved or thought nothing of?
How can I help people achieve the ultimate goal of shrinking down—this is a weight loss site, after all—without leaving someone else feeling like “damn, I’ve never thought of this like this before… do other people look at me and think this, too?”
All I can say, is that you should never loathe your body because of its appearance, or because of some trait that other might view differently than you. Your body is yours, it performs for you, it presents for you to do what you want with (within the confines of the law), and you should be encouraged to embrace the parts of it that are meaningful to you, regardless of what anyone else may think. It’s okay to still love your saddlebags. It’s okay to love a full tummy—after having Baby Sprout a little over a year ago I still have a tummy and guess what? I love mine!—or chubby thighs or whatever you may have.
And guess what? It’s okay to love your body and still desire to change it, evolve, grow stronger and let your physique reflect it, whatever.
Change doesn’t have to mean dissatisfaction. And seeing other people dissatisfied with a trait doesn’t mean you should feel any kind of way about yourself.
Don’t loathe your body—love it, nourish it, train it to keep it active and healthy, and never take other people’s criticisms of their own bodies to heart. Their problems aren’t yours, and don’t ever have to be. <3
I am 15 and I used to be really active when I was in public school and I didn’t have saddlebags but ever since I have been doing online schooling I haven’t been active and now I have horrible saddle bags and I don’t know what to do my body looks misshaped. I am 5’3 in the 11th grade and 90 pounds, I have been doing a lot of research lately and I am hoping they change.
Don’t approach it like that—look at it as, I’m really sedentary right now and my figure is starting to reflect it, so let me find ways to get active.
Take up a high intensity interval training routine two-to-three times a week combined with light cardio (a half hour or less), and give it a few months. They’ll fade away quickly.
More importantly, you’re young and hopefully heading off to college soon. You’ll want to learn early on that a sedentary career or study schedule needs to be offset with a consistent training or activity schedule in order to keep your body running optimally and help you protect against the potential downfalls of aging as a sedentary person. Build up those habits now, and it’ll be easier (and less expensive) for you to remain healthy as you age!
Hello…I am 63 yrs female…my bmi is 25….5’3″…wt 128…I hve notice saddlebags…I do excerise (knee prob) eat healthy not liking my saddlebags or inner and outer thigh..don’t look my age “HELP”
They also may be called lipedema which can be painful to touch. There are simply deposits of fats. They can also affect thighs, knees and lower extremities.
Hi. I am 29, 5,4 ft and 145 lb, and last year i have started to have saddlebags, especially extra fat in hips, around hip bone and my body there started to take the shape of a violin. 🙁 I think that this is due to many hours of sitting on my chair, as i do an office job. Is there any way to reverse this procedure? Unfortunately, i have a hip joints issue and i cannot lift weights. 🙁 In the last two weeks, i have started to go for walking and swimming. Do you think that this will help me get rid of this fat and reshape my body? 🙁 And if yes, are there are any swimming-specific exercises that can help? How many times/hours i should exercise per week? Thank you.
Yep! You’ve got to do that cardio, which helps burn the fat, and that’ll be just about anything in your swimming routine that gets your heart rate up and going. Between 45-60 minutes 5-6 times a week, alternating between light and heavy days should make a huge difference.
I have no idea how I stumbled upon your article but I am thankful.
I am 25 and pear shaped when I was younger my butt was very round and perky. During college I started getting saddlebags but I thought I they were big hips, little did I know!
Just last week I was complaining to my cousin that I lost 3/4 of my hips due to strength training, now I am very happy I lost what I thought were hips.
Almost 4 months ago, I started working out( cardio+ strength training). I take pictures every month for progress, and that is how I noticed that the saddlebags are almost completely gone. I was ambivalent about the situation since I thought I was losing my hips even though my butt was lifted and rounder.
Thank you for this informative article.
Now, I have to go tell my sister that she has saddlebags! Lol
Your message is spot on, i am a lady of 40 and had huge saddle bags. I was skinny, no activity and i had them bad. I have been gyming for a year including more cardio but recently i added target exercises,lunges and squats, fire hydrants any butt exercises and they are starting to completely disappear… it is possible to get them away.
How long would it take for them to go away if you walk fast pace on a treadmill??!
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